Indiana needs new, cheap energy sources and nuclear energy needs to be part of the discussion, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pense told industry leaders Tuesday.
Pence spoke to state energy industry leaders at the Indiana Conference on Energy Management. He said increasing demand for energy and needed improvements to the state's power transmission grid could mean that utility ratepayers' seek cost hikes.
"Conquering this challenge will require a coordinated effort from a broad range of stakeholders and leadership from the next governor of Indiana," Pence told the crowd.
He said the state's Office of Energy Development needs to work with universities to identify innovative energy solutions. He also noted that "small modular reactors" are already being developed in Indiana.
The longtime Republican congressman offered few specifics Tuesday about how he would promote nuclear energy development or support development of other energy sources.
Some of that could be tied to the federal government typically having a greater role in energy development than the states. But when asked if he supported the state's efforts to subsidize the Rockport coal gasification plant by locking Hoosiers into a mandatory purchase contract, Pence said he was still reviewing the project.
The $2.9 billion project, which has been supported by GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels and been subsidized in part with a special state tax credit, has sparked opposition from some Republicans in the General Assembly opposed to the state picking companies to support.
Democratic candidate John Gregg has talked generally about his support for coal and for constructing windmill components in Indiana, but has yet to issue any specific proposals.
"John has been talking with Hoosiers for months about how to keep energy costs down for Indiana, while also creating good-paying energy jobs in the state," Gregg spokesman Daniel Altman said in a statement. "As someone who has worked for two different coal companies, John knows that we have enormous potential not just for coal, but methane, natural gas, biomass and wind energy and he will work to further develop these industries."
Pence also repeated attacks on President Barack Obama that he has relied on throughout the campaign and through his last few years in Washington, saying new regulations sought by the Environmental Protection Agency would ruin Indiana's coal industry.
Pence and Obama may have found unlikely solidarity on at least one issue, however. The federal Energy Department is spending $500 million to help develop the nuclear "small modular reactors" that Pence is touting.